Catastrophe at Te Aro Baths

Neville Martin now lives in Khandallah, but spent his youth in Oriental Bay, where he regales us with some of his escapades and experiences (taken from his memoir Playing Against the Wind).

One anecdote which he recounts tells of the morning when a southerly got the best of the old Te Aro baths:

They were one of Wellington’s recreational jewels. Filled with saltwater (which helped the buoyancy), they had several diving boards and sundry other wonders. On the day in question I was gazing out of our front window at the squalls being driven across the harbour by a particularly vindictive southerly when gracefully, almost regally, something clearly not intended for a sea-going career hove into view. It was the baths, torn by the wind from their piles and any other attachments to terra firma and headed in the general direction of Petone. I can report that the good ship Te Aro broke up before reaching shore. There was no loss of life. The custodian, if he was present that morning, had made the eminently sensible decision to abandon ship before the voyage began.

The old baths were eventually replaced by the Freyberg Pool, a building singularly unimpressed by anything in Nature’s armoury — save, one suspects, the Big One. We were raised just out of the Second World War’s clutches — but not of its thrall. As I recall, the green belt behind the Bay teemed with German and Japanese soldiers. We boys mowed them down in pitched battle after pitched battle — and without the loss of a single life on our side. When it wasn’t the armies of the belligerent nations which demanded our attention, it was the losses of Wild West outlaws hiding in the tumbleweed on the empty sections which eventually were to sprout the high-rise apartment buildings of today’s Oriental Bay.

Digital technology enables children living in those apartments now to destroy armies of incoming aliens and carloads of Mafiosi at the press of a thumb. No need to get wet or risk scratches and cuts.

— Bay View newsletter 71, May 2018